COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
It sometimes amuses me when I consider these latest trends in health and nutrition such as eating more vegetables and preferably in their rawest form like steamed or salads, using brown sugar instead of refined white sugar, and eating more fish and less of chicken and red meat. For it is like going back to an earlier period of time or civilization and that what we have long been eating in the barrios are the right kind of food for a healthy body all this time.
Back in the barrios in earlier decades, vegetables are a daily staple on the table along with fish (if you live in a coastal village) simply because of their abundance. Meat is a once-a-week or a once-a-month affair for it was expensive and scarce. You will only have a fill of pork and chicken if you raise them in your own backyard, but even then they took months to grow and be ready for consumption.
Back then, rural folks associate eating vegetables with being poor or even eating fish of which the different varieties come in seasons. There were really days when fish was not available for human consumption. So meat which was expensive and scarce was associated with the rich and beef became a status symbol. Grandmother though was a meat eater so we raised our own pigs, fowls, and goats for home use.
As rural folks migrated to the towns and cities, they try to avail of meat products not only for a higher protein intake but more of adopting a modern lifestyle and believing that eating such food means a better quality of life. Even using refined sugar now instead of brown sugar suggests economic advancement. And the once omnipresent vegetables are now relegated as sidings to the main meat dishes or even totally vanished from the table.
Only to be faced with the latest findings in research on health and nutrition that eating meat and most especially processed meat is the main cause of most major diseases like hypertension, heart disease, and even cancer. There is a growing incidence of cancer among children which is being attributed to their large intake of hotdogs with their high preservative content. But meat products in general being mass produced are now bombarded with growth hormones and antibiotics that they have become more hazardous to health.
And so the health buffs especially those from the higher income class are advocating less meat or totally renouncing it. Being vegetarian seems to be an ideal practice along with yoga and other back-to-nature health regimen. And the once displaced brown sugar which proves to be healthier for the body is finding its way to the restaurants, coffee shops, and the dining tables of the rich. Even the muscovado sugar we only use in making biko and latik has become a fashionable sweetener for hot coffee.
Eating what’s close to nature indeed is the most important practice for a healthy lifestyle. Eat more of fresh fruits. Vegetables are best eaten raw or slightly cooked. Vinaigrette is a good salad dressing (out with mayonnaise), and while soy sauce with lemon is just right for steamed okra, apple cider vinegar with a little sugar is a delicious dip for sliced cucumber. Or better still; simply extract the juice (use a juicer or blender) of fruits and vegetables to retain their enzymes.
For all our pretensions of having lived a good life, trying to be more sophisticated by refining what’s been naturally provided by God, we are eventually faced with a life-threatening situation and thereby brought back to where we started—back to basic, back to nature, in an effort to salvage dear life.